Britain wants ethical foreign policy

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Britain must have a foreign policy "with a conscience" and try to inspire other countries with "our values", Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday.

In an article in The Daily Telegraph newspaper, he said Britain should lobby its "oldest and staunchest allies", as well as "authoritarian regimes or emerging democracies", to ensure human rights were protected.

It was an indication that the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government would echo the "ethical foreign policy" drive initially heralded by prime minister Tony Blair when the Labour Party began its 13 years in power in 1997.

However, Blair was accused of having abandoned the idea over his handling of the war in Iraq.

Hague wrote of the "centrality of human rights in the core values of our foreign policy.

"We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience. Foreign policy is domestic policy written large," the former Conservative Party leader said.

"The values we live by at home do not stop at our shores. Human rights are not the only issue that informs the making of foreign policy, but they are indivisible from it, not least because the consequences of foreign policy failure are human.

"When ceasefires break down or unchecked climate change takes hold, ordinary people suffer. Where there is lawlessness, human rights abuses inevitably follow, affecting our security in the UK as well as affronting our common humanity."

He said: "It is not in our character as a nation to stand by while others are in need, or to be unmoved when they are denied the hard-won freedoms and protections that we enjoy in Britain."

The new government, on an efficiency drive, has been criticised for saying the glossy annual Foreign Office report on the human rights records of countries around the world would not be exempt from savings.

© 2010 AFP

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